COLUMN: Murder, guns and mental health

Tragedies can be avoided and it is important we are ever vigilant in identifying signs of crisis in our friends and families.

Gun violence has become so normalized in the U. S. that it hardly makes headlines. The recent horrific murder of two young journalists, Alison Parker and Adam Ward, in Virginia was another, almost daily occurrence.

What made it so shocking was that it took place on live television. The killer had a sick desire to go down in infamy. Like many others before him and sadly others to come, shooters will continue to escalate the horrendous nature of their crimes in order to be added to the list.

The increase in gun violence is not in our imaginations. The U.S. has seen an escalation in mass murder and firearms-related homicides. Criminals are arming themselves with assault rifles, automatic weapons, handguns and other weapons to commit heinous offences.

In Canada, gun violence is far rarer, but we are not immune. The RCMP has dealt with multiple murders of their own members and recently, an Edmonton police officer was shot and killed on a routine call.

In B.C., we have been dealing with gang violence, which has had the additional impact of putting innocent people in harm’s way. There has also been  numerous domestic-violence related murders, some with innocent children as victims.

Both in Canada and the U.S., mental illness is consuming more police and health care resources, and while I will not make a direct link to an increase in mass shootings, I do believe that mental illness is likely a contributing factor in many of these incidents. Police services across North America report that anywhere from 20-30 per cent of calls are related to people suffering from mental health issues, and while the vast majority of these individuals are not violent, a small percentage commit unimaginable crimes.

Mental illness, combined with the ease of acquiring firearms, is a serious threat to public safety, yet there has been little political will to deal with the issue. It is time to take action.

A population with increasing mental health issues, which has easy access to deadly weapons, will have devastating consequences. The right to bear arms should not be more important than a police officer going home to his or her family at the end of a shift. It should not override the right for people to practise their religion with a sense of security, or for children to be safe from violence in their classrooms.

While the political struggle against gun laws does not exist in Canada, we must commit to treating mental health issues. We need more mental health care professionals working with police, and more resources for early intervention for youth and families showing signs of stress. We must not criminalize mental health, but rather, ensure that those suffering have timely access to effective hospital, residential and community treatments.

Too often we hear that a shooter was behaving oddly, or his life pattern changed, but there was no intervention or assistance in seeking help.  Tragedies can be avoided and it is important we are ever vigilant in identifying signs of crisis in our friends and families. We owe that to our communities and to those whose lives have been cut short due to gun violence.

Jim Cessford is the recently retired chief of the Delta Police Department and has spent more than 40 years in law enforcement.

 

 

 

Just Posted

Crashes pile up as snow blankets Surrey

Up to 10 centimetres of snow is in the forecast

How much does your city spend per person on snow removal?

Black Press Media compares 2018 ice and snow removal budgets of various Lower Mainland communities

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

Surrey pastor in concert with songs from her new ‘Psalms for a Peaceful Heart’ CD

‘Incredible’ church sanctuary in Whalley a stage for Lori-Anne Boutin-Crawford’s music

Plan to redevelop former Surrey motel site too dense, says Coun. Pettigrew

Pettigrew: ‘We need to build liveable community with green spaces… not massive zones that are densified’

VIDEO: 8 things you need to know about the 2019 B.C. budget

Surplus of $247 million with spending on children, affordability and infrastructure

Ex-Langley spiritual leader cleared of stock trading allegations

Investors allegedly lost $740,000 investing through a local religious organization.

‘Bullet missed me by an inch’: Man recounts friend’s killing at Kamloops hotel

Penticton man witnessed Summerland resident Rex Gill’s murder in Kamloops

B.C. BUDGET: Income assistance raise still leaves many below poverty line

$50 per month increase included in funding for poverty and homelessness reduction

B.C. BUDGET: Indigenous communities promised billions from gambling

Extended family caregiver pay up 75 per cent to keep kids with relatives

B.C. BUDGET: New benefit increases family tax credits up to 96 per cent

BC Child Opportunity Benefit part of province’s efforts to reduce child poverty

B.C. BUDGET: Carbon tax boosts low-income credits, electric vehicle subsidies

Homeowners can get up to $14,000 for heating, insulation upgrades

B.C. man survives heart attack thanks to Facebook

A Princeton man suffered a heart attack while at an isolated property with no cell service

Abbotsford man sues Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party over trademark

Satinder Dhillon filed application for trademark same day Maxime Bernier announced the new party

Most Read